To Vincent T. Harris, being his father’s son as he grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, “meant being a straight Southern gentleman who dated girls, had a steady job … a tough young man who played sports,” he shared. “What I know now is that being your son meant not being myself.”
While in college, the inaugural director of Cal State Fullerton’s Male Success Initiative decided to conduct ethnographic research on himself. “I didn’t find enough stories that related to black men in college and how they experienced themselves through their ethnicities, their identities and their sexual orientation,” said Harris.
“Embracing the Complex His-Stories,” Harris’s keynote address at the Oct. 2 LGBTQ History Month reception kicked off a campuswide celebration taking place through Oct. 25.
Harris decided to write his dissertation in the form of letters and shared some of these at the reception as a way to “understand the different ways of storytelling and the intersections of masculinity, ethnicity and identity — and to also understand the deconstruction of the seduction of acceptance.”
He addressed the first letter to his father.
“Dad, no one really knew me. Not even you,” he wrote.
“We’re nothing but stories,” Harris shared with the audience. “It’s through these stories that we’re able to understand who we truly are and who we truly want to become.”
Before he read the last of four letters, Harris invited “men of color who self-identify as a man to stand with me. I want to invite those who self-identify as a man who happen to be gay, who happen to be bisexual, who happen to be questioning — I want to invite you to stand with me.”
More than a dozen men stood by him as he read the letter titled, “I, Too, Am a Black Man.”
“It is my hope,” said Harris, “that we can use our own stories and our lived experiences to deconstruct borders, to transcend differences and to reaffirm our common humanity.”
CSUF President Mildred García, who hosted the reception at the Fullerton Arboretum, spoke of the current “critical time in our nation’s history” as a call to speak out on behalf of those whose rights are under attack.
“It is time for all of us — faculty, staff and students — to wield the power of our collective voice to let the world know where we stand: firmly and proudly on the right side of history,” she reminded the audience. “I am proud that as a tight-knit family of students and educators, we understand that this point in history, silence is indeed a betrayal.”
During the reception, the LGBT Queer Center recognized business administration major Erica Espino and computer science major Matthew Zuniga for their work with the LGTBQ community on campus.
For a complete list of LGBTQ History Month activities, visit the LGBT Queer Resource Center website or call 657-278-4218.